RACE 3: FAIR LASSIE (#2)
Miss Hot Stones will win this race if she returns from the layoff in the same sort of form we saw from her in the spring of 2019. However, the fact that she’s dropping in for a $25,000 tag off the long break doesn’t inspire confidence. Furthermore, trainer Bruce Levine is just 4 for 32 (13%, $1.15 ROI) with horses returning from layoffs of 180 days or more on the dirt over the past 5 years. She’s also going to face some pace pressure from Overtime Olivia to her outside, and potential even a couple of others. I’ll use her defensively, but I think you’re supposed to take a shot against a horse like this. The problem with this race is that the obvious alternatives aren’t particularly appealing. Calinas Song and Dirty Bird exit the same race, in which they both finished well in arrears of Sadie Lady. The former was particularly disappointing, as she got a good trip stalking a slow pace and had nothing to offer in the lane. I want to look elsewhere, so I’m taking a shot with Fair Lassie second off the layoff. She returned from a 4-month break in early December and took some money while facing a tougher field. However, everything went wrong soon after the start as she found herself in traffic getting shuffled back for about 3 furlongs. She faded badly to be last but Manny Franco essentially wrapped up on her late. Now she’s dropping in class, but this is a realistic placement for a filly who has raced for a tag before. She does her best work over dry tracks and she figures to get that on Sunday. It’s also a good sign that Manny Franco retains the mount for a low-profile barn.
RACE 5: DANEBURY (#6)
Likely favorite Storm Prophet owns strongest set of TimeformUS Speed Figures in this field and is making his first start off the claim for Jason Servis, who obviously does very well with this move. However, Servis is getting this horse from Rudy Rodriguez, so it’s not as if this is some massive trainer upgrade. Furthermore, this 7-year-old just isn’t a winning type, having finished second at this level in three consecutive starts. It’s probably fair to call him the horse to beat given his overall consistency, but that doesn’t change the fact that someone usually does step up and beat him. Joe’s Smokin Gun’s first start off the claim for Linda Rice was a little disappointing, since he was coming off a couple of fast victories for Rudy Rodriguez, albeit against lesser competition. He shouldn’t have had an issue with the sloppy track last time, since he’s relished such going in the past. He wouldn’t need to improve that much on his last effort and it’s a good sign that there’s no drop, but I’d rather take a different horse out of that Jan. 4 heat. That race seemed like a good opportunity for Danebury, as he appeared to be the controlling speed and was getting to run over a sloppy track that he’s appreciated in the past. Yet not all wet tracks are the same, this horse was also making his third start in the span of just 4 weeks. All of that activity may have caught up with him. Now he’s coming into this race off a 5-week break and he’s drawn well on the outside, in case he does have to rate off that sprinter Bustin Shout. If he’s able to rebound to the kind of form that we saw out of him as recently as Dec. 21 he’d be a handful for these, and he’s unlikely to be favored.
RACE 8: OUR SUPER NOVA (#2)
Newly Minted is a deserving favorite in this race given her excellent résumé of consistently strong performances. Aside from one failed turf experiment, she’s run well in all of her starts, and she arguably put forth the best effort of her career when last seen on Dec. 22. She wasn’t facing much competition that day, bet down to 2-5 odds for a reason, and she dominated throughout to with a solid speed figure. Yet, it was just that – another solid speed figure –nothing more, nothing less. She’s earning figures indicate she’s among the major contenders, but not numbers that suggest she has any significant edge over this field, and certainly not the kind of edge you’d expect of a horse who is 8-5 on the morning line. I respect her and will use her prominently, but there are other major players in this race. I prefer her main rival Our Super Nova. From a pure speed figure standpoint, she’s every bit the equal of Newly Minted and actually defeated her when they met in the Empire Distaff last October. Our Super Nova legitimized that performance with subsequent successes, impressively winning a state-bred stakes before finishing an admirable third in the Grade 3 Go For Wand. Some may be deterred by her loss as the 2-5 favorite in the Bay Ridge last time, but that effort is not a true gauge of her current form. Junior Alvarado made a tactical error that day, as he reined her in to rate off the pace despite breaking clearly in front. She ended up getting caught in a pocket behind the leaders and could just never find a clear path when it really mattered. She’s not going to mind turning back to a mile and she figures to offer better value than the favorite.